The Quest for Healthcare Prices

Asking the price of an eye exam or test should be a simple question. A recent study found that this is hard to do, even in Massachusetts, where a cost control law was passed in 2012. This law requires hospitals and doctors to provide prices for procedures within two days of a request.

The Pioneer Institute research group based in Boston called 96 medical offices asking for basic prices. The resulting prices vary widely and getting the answers was not easy. Dentists had prices handy, ophthalmologists were pretty good, and dermatologists had problems.

It is disappointing that some offices refused to give prices at all. Office personnel need more training to provide prices. If pricing is available, the entire medical industry should be able to follow suit.

Physicians in smaller practices have more knowledge about their prices than large group practices. Since different insurers negotiate different rates, this complex system does not often allow a clear answer. Even finding the rate for an uninsured patient was difficult. Getting a price for a colonoscopy took three to 10 days, and the price ranged from $1,000 to $10,000.

Gov. Charlie Baker promised more transparent pricing in healthcare and will ask hospitals to post their prices. He is looking at other ways to make prices available to patients besides listing them at hospitals and physician offices. Insurers say they will improve their websites, yet demand for it is not high. This may be changing as more employers get high-deductible plans.

Providing affordable health care is a priority for the public. Getting patients to understand the costs and necessity of a procedure (or lack thereof) will lead to lower medical costs in the future.
Bebinger, Martha. “How Much Is That Eye Exam? Study Probes The Elusive Quest For Health Care Prices.” News. Kaiser Health News, 14 Aug 2015. Web. 6 Mar 2016.

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